The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

Discussion
Source: Kohl's - "Win the Holidays With New Gifts at Every Turn
Dec 03, 2019
George Anderson

Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the books and retailers across the country are prepping for the fast dash leading up to Christmas. Two of those who could really use a win at this critical time of year are Kohl’s and Macy’s.

Week three of the RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge puts these two department stores (yes, we know Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass rejects the d-store tag) into a head-to-head competition for the second year in a row. Macy’s won the voting in 2018 with its out-of-this-world “Space Station” spot, while Kohl’s emphasized the “Kohl’s Cash” rewards that gave givers the ability to do a little receiving for themselves, as well.

This current matchup is thematically in line with what we saw last year. Kohl’s has crossed two of America’s great pastimes — football and shopping — to try and rally consumers to its stores to “Win the Holidays with New Gifts at Every Turn” during the holidays.

Macy’s spot follows its longtime holiday “dream” approach with a young girl who wants to be Santa Claus when she grows up.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is your critique of the Christmas spots from Kohl’s and Macy’s? Which retailer does a better job of connecting with its core customers while reaching out to new shoppers with its holiday commercials?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The Macy’s ad does a fantastic job of connecting with core customers through using their Thanksgiving Day parade as the kickoff to the holiday season. My vote is for Macy's."
"Kohl’s does a great job of associating football with their product assortment. They attempt to show a wide product range, but Christmas is really an afterthought."
"OK, Maybe Macy’s can get away with this kind of ad because they are a Christmas icon."

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24 Comments on "The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s"


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Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

This is almost like putting the Bengals up against the Ravens! Not even close.

The Kohl’s commercial is just OK … it lacks anything unique. More importantly there’s little to no experience, emotion or story. By comparison, the Macy’s spot hits on where retailers need to be with their concepts these days … experience, emotional connections and stories. Love it!

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

No contest. Not even close. Macy’s, hands down. I am overdosing on commercialism after Black-this and Cyber-that. A little holiday spirit is exactly what I needed to see and hear.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I feel like the Macy’s “Believe” campaign may be played out. It’s certainly a well-done spot that once again pulls on the heartstrings, but to what end? As a long-time brand director, it takes a lot for me to walk away from pure brand-building investments, but in our attention-deprived world, Kohl’s 30 seconds of reasons why you should shop at Kohl’s is much more effective than Macy’s two minutes of aspiration and inspiration.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Bingo.

Casey Golden
BrainTrust
1 day 21 hours ago

Macy’s is the clear winner. They embraced their heritage and modernized a play on Miracle on 34th Street. Nicely done.

Kathleen Fischer
Guest

While the spot from Kohl’s is fun and exciting and certainly does more to highlight Kohl’s merchandise and promotions, the spot from Macy’s captures the heart of the season and makes Baby Boomers and Gen Xers nostalgic for their childhoods. The overall feelings evoked from the Macy’s spot should touch anyone with a heart this season and offers a view into what Macy’s “stands for.”

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

In my book, the Kohl’s ad loses. Actually it bored me. The Macy’s spot involves the viewer to a much greater extent. Perhaps it’s a little drawn out but, in the end, it punches you right in your emotional gut! And that’s the sweet spot every advertiser desires.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Apples and oranges.

The Kohl’s commercial drives me crazy every time I see it because it’s such blatant commercialism. Christmas is an important season for retailers, but there are less in-your-face ways of selling it.

On the other hand, Macy’s mini-movie made me tear up but that’s the point, isn’t it? I wanted that little girl to succeed. Macy’s at this time of year is all about magic, giving and believing in things beyond shopping. I like that a retailer can make me feel good about its stores through its stories. My clear winner is Macy’s.

Heidi Sax
BrainTrust

Two wildly different commercials.

For Kohl’s, I like the enthusiasm and get the sense that it evokes how shoppers actually feel while shopping at Kohl’s. At the same time, the “blatant consumerism” (as you so well put it) leaves me with nothing.

For Macy’s, I love the narrative, the character development, and of course the overall message. It leaves parents with the feeling that they can create a miraculous holiday for their children, regardless of gift size. But it also feels a bit dark/dreary for December and would have benefited from a good edit for time.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

According to Ad Age the Macy’s ad also has 30 and 60 second versions. I really like the “Believe in the wonder” message and that Macy’s keeps the spirit of Christmas alive in its stores, even when its sales floors are populated with sale racks. The brand message is strong.

Heidi Sax
BrainTrust

Oh, that makes perfect sense re: shorter clips. Smart.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Macy’s by a long shot. Kohl’s has some fun and includes the Property Brothers. However it’s not clear what their role is in this commercial. On the other hand, Macy’s tells a story that has been too long in coming. Why not a female Santa?

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Macy’s is what Christmas is supposed to be about, Kohl’s is about what it’s become. Macy’s connects, although I doubt it does much for them beyond name recognition – and maybe that’s enough at this time of year for a TV ad.

Rob Gallo
BrainTrust

While I like the Macy’s spot much better, I think its connection with the holiday dream was broken long ago. To me these spots indicate that Kohl’s has a better understanding of who it is and what is does well, while Macy’s seems to be grasping at the past. Macy’s is as much of a transactional store these days as Kohl’s is.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

The Kohl’s spot is energetic and gives shoppers a clear reason to buy from Kohl’s – they have the season’s hottest gifts and toys. However, the Macy’s ad does a fantastic job of connecting with core customers through the use of their Thanksgiving Day parade as the kickoff to the holiday season. My vote is for Macy’s.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Kohl’s wins for its short, sweet and wacky emotional appeal to a broad audience. Its fun and humor appeal to sports lovers counting the days until Super Bowl LIV, time-starved women who want to feel triumphant by choosing winning Christmas gifts and Frozen 2 fans who want Elsa under their tree this year. Plus, everyone loves dogs.

Macy’s longer, thoughtful spot gives a nod to its rich history, including its iconic parade, while recognizing the future belongs to empowered females. Yet not everyone will take the time to watch this entire ad for its meaningful message of equality and ambition.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

The Kohl’s ad is a rehash of last year’s Western-themed ad, and it checks the same boxes — target customer (woman) as family hero, a place to find everything on your list, and the ubiquitous Kohl’s Cash. It’s fine as far as it goes, but lacks the emotional resonance of the Macy’s ad. The latter spot is much more effective than last year’s “Lighthouse” ad, even if it still lacks a sense of urgency about driving sales.

So this early vote goes to Macy’s — but let’s face it, whoever rings the register more effectively is the real winner of the commercial challenge at season’s end.

W. Frank Dell II
BrainTrust

Kohl’s does a great job of associating football with their product assortment. They attempt to show a wide product range, but Christmas is really an afterthought. Macy’s brings strong Christmas ties and feelings, but banks on the Thanksgiving Parade as an anchor. Macy’s does not tell you what they sell and why you should shop with them. Macy’s wins with a stronger Christmas message.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

The Property Brothers and football? What does that have to do with Kohl’s? I just plain didn’t get it nor did it inspire me in any way. The Macy’s spot touches the heart but, again, being a curmudgeon, what does that have to do with Macy’s? OK, Maybe Macy’s can get away with this kind of ad because they are a Christmas icon. I did love the story and it will grab attention. I just hope people will remember that the ad was for Macy’s and will be inspired to shop there. For my 2 cents and my vote.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Lee, check out the “Scott Living” collection of home goods at Kohl’s. It may explain why the brothers are in the commercial.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Sadly, the Kohl’s ad did little for me. I am a football fan, but even the football-related imagery did little to attract me. The plus is that it was only a 30-second spot. Macy’s on the other hand showed a lot of what the holidays are supposed to be about. The minus on the Macy’s ad was it was too long. Macy’s gets my nod this week.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

For brand image, clearly the Macy’s ad depicts a wonderful story that tears at the heartstrings and the spirit of Christmas. The Kohl’s ad is targeted at shoppers providing the idea that Kohl’s can solve most gift giving challenges. Viewers will like the Macy’s ad better, but its ability to cause shoppers to come to a Macy’s store is suspect.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

With a nod to a mass football culture (and a dose of DIY) as the common thread across households regardless of location or income, Kohl’s taking a lowest common denominator approach. Although the company elevates women to holiday time heroes, the use of a very masculine sport to attribute such heroics actually emphasizes that this is a male dominated everything when it comes to awareness, measuring success, or creating value. I really like Kohl’s as a store, but this spot heavily detracts from their brand.

Macy’s does a much better job to connect their heritage and story while providing a space for the young (and not so young) dreamers. It feels good, although the low-lit scenes and spot length can detract from the overall message, this commercial is uplifting and much more on brand than Kohl’s. Now, if the stores can be as inspirational as this spot, we’d all celebrate.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

I enjoyed watching the Macy’s well-crafted mini-movie, but I think Kohl’s “shopping-as-a-competitive-sport” approach wins for advertising effectiveness. The two could not be more different. I think Kohl’s is communicating to the sensibilities of its core shoppers, while Macy’s is sharing a sentimental tale.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The Macy’s ad does a fantastic job of connecting with core customers through using their Thanksgiving Day parade as the kickoff to the holiday season. My vote is for Macy's."
"Kohl’s does a great job of associating football with their product assortment. They attempt to show a wide product range, but Christmas is really an afterthought."
"OK, Maybe Macy’s can get away with this kind of ad because they are a Christmas icon."

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